A Brief History of Korean Kimchi


Kimchi is one of the most iconic Korean dishes around.

Let’s talk about Korean kimchi. Kimchi is one of the most iconic Korean dishes around. But as with many other favorite foods, we often take it for granted and never wonder where it came from. For this week, let’s focus in on the wonders of kimchi. Are you getting hungry yet? Read on to learn more.  

The Dawn of Kimchi

Kimchi, or something like it first appeared around the time of the Three Kingdoms period in Chinese history. This era spanned the years of 57-668 BCE. The people of Koguryeo [Korea] were renowned for their skills at creating foods that were fermented, a key element of the dish. Wine, soybean paste, and chotkal, or fermented and salted fish were among the early Koreans’ claims to fame. At the dawn of kimchi, it lacked two major ingredients that define it in modern times: red pepper and cabbage.

There was no red pepper used because the Americas had not yet been discovered. Cabbage was known, but not often used. Instead, radishes were the primary ingredient used. These radishes were dipped in paste or salted in various brines first. When times changed, so did the techniques used in the creation of this particular specialty.

The Koryo period, which ran from 918-1392 CE saw the incorporation of a wider variety of vegetables. These vegetables included pine mushrooms, larger radishes, and of course, the Chinese cabbage. You might be wondering, when did this famous dish first enter the written record? We were just getting to that. The poet Lee Kyu-Bo wrote about it during the middle of this dynasty. What other vegetables entered the mix during this time? They included:

  • Wild leeks
  • Indian mustard leaf
  • Bamboo shoots

The so-called “juicy” style was also created in this era.

Later On in Kimchi History

From the time of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) and beyond, kimchi grew exponentially more popular and creative due to the long-lasting stability of this dynasty. During this time, preservation would be in soy sauce as salt fell out of favor. Chile peppers first became a part of kimchi here. The most popular type of kimchi, known as tongbaechu, was invented sometime after 1800 CE. Today, over 200 different varieties exist.

Get All Your Asian Groceries at Lotte Plaza Market

Lotte Plaza Market is your one-stop shop for all of your Korean and Asian grocery needs. With more than 10 locations in Maryland and Virginia, this growing market is always expanding and opening new markets to better serve our customers. Opened since 1976, our goal has always been to provide the best customer service and groceries to our customers. For answers to all of your questions, email us at LottePlaza.com.


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